There’s Still Time To Ask For Things For The Mathematics A To Z


Summer 2017 Mathematics A to Z, featuring a coati (it's kind of the Latin American raccoon) looking over alphabet blocks, with a lot of equations in the background.
Art courtesy of Thomas K Dye, creator of the web comic Newshounds. He has a Patreon for those able to support his work. He’s also open for commissions, starting from US$10.

I’m figuring to begin my Summer 2017 Mathematics A To Z next week. And I’ve got the first several letters pinned down, in part by a healthy number of requests by Gaurish, a lover of mathematics. Partly by some things I wanted to talk about.

There are many letters not yet spoken for, though. If you’ve got something you’d like me to talk about, please head over to my first appeal and add a comment. The letters crossed out have been committed, but many are free. And the challenges are so much fun.

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What Would You Like In The Summer 2017 Mathematics A To Z?


Summer 2017 Mathematics A to Z, featuring a coati (it's kind of the Latin American raccoon) looking over alphabet blocks, with a lot of equations in the background.
Art courtesy of Thomas K Dye, creator of the web comic Newshounds. He has a Patreon for those able to support his work.

I would like to now announce exactly what everyone with the ability to draw conclusions expected after I listed the things covered in previous Mathematics A To Z summaries. I’m hoping to write essays about another 26 topics, one for each of the major letters of the alphabet. And, as ever, I’d like your requests. It’s great fun to be tossed out a subject and either know enough about it, or learn enough about it in a hurry, to write a couple hundred words about it.

So that’s what this is for. Please, in comments, list something you’d like to see explained.

For the most part, I’ll do a letter on a first-come, first-serve basis. I’ll try to keep this page updated so that people know which letters have already been taken. I might try rewording or rephrasing a request if I can’t do it under the original letter if I can think of a legitimate way to cover it under another. I’m open to taking another try at something I’ve already defined in the three A To Z runs I’ve previously done, especially since many of the terms have different meanings in different contexts.

I’m always in need of requests for letters such as X and Y. But you knew that if you looked at how sparse Mathworld’s list of words for those letters are.

Letters To Request:

  • A
  • B
  • C
  • D
  • E
  • F
  • G
  • H
  • I
  • J
  • K
  • L
  • M
  • N
  • O
  • P
  • Q
  • R
  • S
  • T
  • U
  • V
  • W
  • X
  • Y
  • Z

I’m flexible about what I mean by “a word” or “a term” in requesting something, especially if it gives me a good subject to write about. And if you think of a clever way to get a particular word covered under a letter that’s really inappropriate, then, good. I like cleverness. I’m not sure what makes for the best kinds of glossary terms. Sometimes a broad topic is good because I can talk about how an idea expresses itself across multiple fields. Sometimes a narrow topic is good because I can dig in to a particular way of thinking. I’m just hoping I’m not going to commit myself to three 2500-word essays a week. Those are fun, but they’re exhausting, as the time between Why Stuff Can Orbit essays may have hinted.

And finally, I’d like to thank Thomas K Dye for creating banner art for this sequence. He’s the creator of the longrunning web comic Newshounds. He’s also got the book version, Newshounds: The Complete Story freshly published, a Patreon to support his comics habit, and plans to resume his Infinity Refugees spinoff strip shortly.

The End Of 2016 Mathematics A To Z: Any Requests?


I have fun with these, and they’re surprisingly easy to write once I get started. So I’d like to send November and December out with another of my Mathematics A To Z projects. To that end I’m open for suggestions. Have you got a mathematical term that you’d like to dare me to explain? I’m happy to give it a try. Please leave a comment here with the word, or words, you’d like to suggest. And please send folks who might like a couple paragraphs on some mathematical term over this way. I’ll need help filling out the alphabet, especially, based on past experience, the letter ‘y’. There’s not enough mathematical terms starting with ‘y’ to make it easy for me. I’ll need help.

I usually take this as a first-come, first-serve sort of thing. But I reserve the right to fiddle with synonyms or alternate phrasings if I’m intrigued by something whose letter was already taken. I’ll try to update the roster here with what’s taken and what’s free.

Here’s the roundup for the Summer 2015 A To Z, and then here’s the roundup for the Leap Day 2016 A To Z. So those cover words I’ve already gotten to. And now I’ve discovered I was inconsistent about whether to use the WordPress tag ‘atoz’ or ‘a-to-z’ and don’t think that isn’t going to drive me crazy.

Here I’ll try to keep an updated roster of what letters have gotten knocked out:

algebra Jordan curve smooth
boundary value problems kernel tree
Cantor’s middle third local unlink
distribution (statistics) Monster Group Voronoi diagram
ergodic normal numbers Weierstrass Function
Fredholm alternative osculating circle Xi function
general covariance principal Yang Hui’s Triangle
hat quotient groups Zermelo-Fraenkel Axioms
image Riemann sum

Is there anything sure to get a word explained by me? Not sure. Picking a letter that’s free helps considerably. I am so going to need a ‘y’ word. Picking a letter early helps. I’m not sure whether it’s better to pick a word that’s got broad applicability or a specialized term. A broadly applicable word tends to be an important one. A specialized term lets me dig into a field I might not actually know much about. That can be fun. Mostly, though, pick the lousy letters of the alphabet. ‘x’ and ‘z’ don’t make things easy for me either. ‘q’ could use some help too.

Any Requests, Theorem Thursdays Edition?


I don’t know just when I’ll have the energy for my next Mathematics A To Z. But I do want to do something. So for June and July I figure to run a Theorem Thursdays bit. Pitch me some theorems and I’ll do my best to explain what they’re about, or why they’re interesting, or how there might be some bit of mathematics-community folklore behind it. That would be the Contraction Mapping Theorem.

While I’m calling it Theorem Thursdays that’s just for the sake of marketing. It doesn’t literally need to have “theorem” in the thing’s name. The only condition I mean to put on it is that I won’t do Cantor’s Diagonal Argument — the proof that there’s more real numbers than there are integers — because it’s already been done so well, so often, by everyone. I don’t have anything to say that could add to its explanation.

Please, put your requests in comments here. I shall try to take the first nine that I see and feel like I can be competent to handle by the end of July. And I hope I’m not doing something soon to be disastrous. I may not know exactly what I’m doing, but then, if anyone ever did know exactly what they were doing they’d never do it.